CHASE CENTER — Klay Thompson flipped up short shots in the paint at the far corner of the Golden State Warriors’ practice gym on Tuesday. He bent his surgically-repaired left knee, but wasn’t jumping yet.
In a Sunday interview with NBC Sports Bay Area, published on Tuesday, head coach Steve Kerr said that just over three months removed from ACL surgery, Thompson was “unlikely” to return to play this season. Golden State had previously announced that Thompson would be re-evaluated by mid-February.
On Tuesday, Kerr clarified: His comment was very “matter-of-fact,” and not an indication of any setback, or a way of tempering expectations that Thompson could return in time to help Golden State down the stretch and into the playoffs.
“I forgot, with modern media, that ‘unlikely’ is going to come on the ticker, ‘out for the year,’ all that stuff,” Kerr said. “Probably my mistake for opening my mouth. Not the first time I’ve gotten myself in trouble for doing that … I probably opened up a can of worms with that comment. It’s really not news; it’s more reality. We’ll leave the door open and see what happens at the end of the year.”
Thompson suffered the injury on June 13 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, and after a July 2 surgery by Dr. James Gladstone — chief of sports medicine at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York — his prognosis was unexpectedly good: His agent said that Thompson was expected to have a five-to-seven-month recovery.
General manager Bob Myers said on Sept. 30, at the start of training camp, that the team would re-evaluate Thompson around the All-Star break. That same day, Thompson said he did not want to rush things.
Thompson, 29, has been around the team facility at Chase Center throughout the preseason, doing progressively more and moving around well.
The notoriously-quick-healing Thompson has played through several injuries during his career, coming back from a high ankle sprain to play in the 2017-18 NBA Finals and a hamstring strain at the start of last season’s Finals. He’s never missed more than nine games in an NBA season.
“Klay’s bored, more than anything,” Kerr said. “He wants to play, he loves basketball so much. The good thing is, he’s starting to shoot and do more things. But we’ve had internal discussions in recent weeks. We all understand the circumstances.”
If Thompson returns at the nine-month mark — April 2 — that would leave just six games left in the regular season.
“ACLs generally take 9-12 months, so takes us right to the end of the season,” Kerr said. “I wasn’t announcing anything. He’s doing great with his rehab. It’s still possible that he could play [this season].”
In Golden State’s first season without three key members of its championship core — Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston — it has been expected by many that Thompson would play the final month of the season, and perhaps give the Warriors’ a boost come playoff time as a seven or eight seed, if they could remain in the playoff picture until February or early March. That would likely require two rookies becoming rotation contributors, Draymond Green returning to his Defensive Player of the Year form and no long-term injuries to Green, Stephen Curry or D’Angelo Russell.
Golden State opens its first season at Chase Center on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers at Chase Center.